This release is available in German.
Not only is our body made of individual organs, our cells themselves are made of tiny organelles, a variety of separate compartments that fulfill different tasks. Such functional, nanostructured systems would also be useful for technical applications, such as biosensors, self-repairing materials, optoelectronic components, or nanocapsules. However, it has not been possible to recreate structures with sufficient complexity in the lab. Researchers in the Netherlands, led by Jan van Esch at the Universities of Delft and Groningen as well as the BioMaDe Technology Foundation, are now pursuing a new angle. As they report in the journal Angewandte Chemie, they allow surfactants and gelators to form aggregates. These aggregates coexist without interfering with each other and thus make versatile, highly complex structures with separate compartments.
Cells contain various components, such as channels, motors, structural frameworks (cytoskeleton), and power plants (mitochondria). In order for these to form, their building blocks, mainly proteins and lipids, must recognize each other and form the correct assembly by self-aggregation. In addition, it is critical that compatible components do not separate into different phases: when proteins fold, the water-loving (hydrophilic) and water-repellent (hydrophobic) parts of the molecule stay far away from each other and aggregate with like-minded components. Biomembranes are formed when many small lipid molecules aggregate such that their hydrophobic tails face inward together and their hydrophilic heads point outward toward the aqueous medium.
The Dutch team imitated this concept by using two types of self-aggregating compounds: surfactants and gelators. Like the lipids in natural membranes, surfactants have a hydrophilic segment and a hydrophobic segment and aggr
|Contact: Jan van Esch|